Seattle to Recognize Gay Spouses

Seattle's mayor said Sunday the city would begin recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian employees who tie the knot elsewhere, although it would not conduct its own same-sex weddings.

Mayor Greg Nickels was expected to sign an executive order today giving same-sex spouses of city employees all the benefits of heterosexual spouses, including health insurance.

He also planned to send a proposal to the City Council to protect the rights of same-sex married couples in Seattle.

"The basic message is one of fairness," Nickels said. But he said he cannot follow the lead of mayors in San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., by allowing same-sex weddings because counties, not cities, have the authority to issue marriage licenses in Washington.

Meanwhile, in the Phoenix area, heterosexual couples who plan to marry must now appear in person to obtain a marriage license because officials halted a mail-in program. The change was made Friday after Maricopa County officials received a mail-in request for a license that suggested the couple could be of the same sex, said Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for the Superior Court clerk's office.

"With all the controversy with this issue, it's more prudent to require people to walk in," Gerchick said. Arizona law says a marriage license can be issued only to a male and a female.